Sumo wrestler’s diet and unique training techniques lead to a healthier distribution of body fat, as well as a comparative lack visceral fat that allows them to build size while maintaining their health.
What do Sumo wrestlers eat?
Sumo wrestlers traditionally eat two massive meals throughout the day. Their primary meal is Chanko-nabe, which is a stew consisting of fish, vegetables, and tofu. This dish provides copious amounts of calories as well as essential vitamins and nutrients. Bowls of rice and pints of beer are often added to pack on calories.
The name of the game is bulking. But more importantly, healthy bulking. This is what is particular about the diet of the sumo wrestler. Nothing in their diet is particularly unhealthy. Often the opposite, infact. They just eat A LOT. The average sumo wrestler eats up to 20,000 calories per day.
How much do Sumo wrestlers weigh?
The average competitive sumo wrestler weighs around 148kilograms (around 326 pounds.) The heaviest sumo wrestler goes by the ring name Ōrora and weights 288 kilograms (635 pounds!) The lightest champion in history (known in Japan as the Yokozuna) is Tochigiyama Moriya who weighed 104 kilograms (229 pounds.)
I think they should start measuring people’s weight in chanko-nabe pot’s. And i’m not just talking about measuring sumo wrestlers. Let’s make it happen!
Why are sumo wrestlers so HUGE?
Its a simple rule of physics. An object with larger mass has an increased inertia and potential to displace objects in front of them. The object of sumo is to move the opponent out of the ring by using the force of your body. Being bigger helps sumo wrestlers overcome their opponents.
Of course, as much of this weight needs to be muscle as possible. Sumo wrestlers lead incredibly regimented lives with strict training sessions beginning as early as 5am! They work out until exhaustion, and then chow down on protein and vitamin-fueled chanko-nabe.
What are the origins of sumo wrestling?
Sumo has a religious background based in Shintoism. Evidence suggests that sumo originated from a ritual dance performed to bring about a bountiful harvest, with Historical records dating back to 712 depicting the Japanese islands being won in a great sumo match between the Shinto gods Takemikazuchi and Takeminakata.
Throughout History Sumo and Shinto would become spiritually and politically entwined, with sumo playing a vital role in the court of the emperor. From the 12th to 17th century sumo became decentralized. As power within Japan shifted from the emperor to the shogunate, and thus the samurai, sumo began to play a vital role in the training of samurai warriors, Over the centuries, sumo would become a popular form of entertainment for the masses.
Get it?! “Masses”!! Nobody can comprehend the number of days I sat here rewriting this until I came up with that one. I did a funny!
To summarize what happened thereafter, ruling Daimyo began sponsoring sumo tournaments as a means to raise money and provide entertainment to commoners. This would be the beginning of the sumo tournaments that are still continuing to this day.
How do sumo wrestlers train?
Sumo wrestlers are required to be associated with an official training stable known as a heya. With practice often beginning every morning as early as 5am, Sumo wrestlers participate in rigorous training exercises designed to increase flexibility and train sumo wrestlers to properly administer their weight towards opponents.
One of these exercises is known as shiko, which is the process of practicing the ritualistic foot-stamping sumo wrestlers perform before each match. This movement is designed to strengthen lower-body strength and improve balance. Another exercise is teppo, where sumo practice proper leg and hand placement to most optimally topple their opponents.
Sumo will them partake in moshiai, which is essentially a king-of-the-hill style tournament where victors will continue to wrestle against opponents until they are defeated. This will continue into the morning, as unranked trainers take to the kitchen to prepare the chanko-nabe for the heya. Trainers will then have lunch, and continue to repeat various exercises throughout the day until the 2nd and final meal of the day.
More on Chanko-nabe and Chanko-nabe restaurants
Chanko-nabe has become iconic as the meal of the sumo wrestler. Did you know that you can eat chanko-nabe if you visit Japan? In fact. to fulfill its purpose chanko-nabe is loaded with protein, so this would be the perfect thing to eat after a day of walking around. Don’t worry, you don’t need to eat sumo-wrestler-level portions.
Not quite, anyways…Maybe.
Assuming that you’ll be hitting one of these cities, i compiled a recommendation of where to get chanko nabe to fulfill your sumo wrestler fantasy in Tokyo, and where to go in Kyoto.
Where to eat chanko-nabe in Tokyo:
Considering the convenience of location, I would have to recommend Chanko Shiba Matsu (相撲鍋 中目黑 芝松 in Nakameguro. Not only does the food look pretty delicious (I haven’t been there personally, but I looked up Japanese reviews), but this restaurant is located right in the center of a great off-the-beaten path area (well, compared to other tourist areas) in Tokyo that you should definitely check out! Nakameguro is famous for it’s multitude of shops, river walk area which is one of the most famous areas to view cherry blossoms in early April, as well as pudding!
Really, there are a lot of famous Japanese pudding shops in this area for some reason. Chanko-nabe and pudding. Truly a combination for a king!
You could spend some time walking around Nakameguro, and then fuel up with a delicious pot of sumo culture goodness. Sounds like a good time to me.
Where to eat chanko-nabe in Kyoto:
What better than to enjoy a nice big fat bowl of sumo wrestling culture in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto?
That sounds incredibly weeby and genuinely cool at the same time!
I recommend Ikoro Sumochaya ( 相撲茶屋 いころ) for it’s and fantastic location and reviews. As someone who has visited Kyoto around a dozen times, I can definitely recommend the surrounding area as it is right in-between the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple, as well as the Heian shrine. You can walk from probably the most famous Buddhist temple in Japan, stop for chanko-nabe, and then go to a famous shinto shrine. Now THAT’s a day in Kyoto. Temple, Shrine, and sumo culture! The best part is that you can probably avoid tourists for a bit in this area in-between the two sites, and you will probably need the breather.
Do you want to try making chanko nabe at home?
If you want to experience sumo culture at home, you might want to try making your own chanko nabe. A really big component of chanko nabe and Japanese nabe culture in general, is that people gather around a communal nabe pot and take their share with chopsticks while the pot continues to boil. If you don’t have a communal pot like this, it really does add to the atmosphere. I checked out a bunch of listings and I would like to recommend this one. This was the most authentic option I saw on amazon.
Now that you have your communal pot, you can begin creating your very own chanko nabe.
*Growkaru is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. I receive a small percentage of sales made with the above link. However, I will ONLY recommend quality products I have used and feel comfortable recommending.
Here’s the recipe:
- 5 cups of dashi broth The main thing to keep in mind is that chanko nabe is a dish created to achieve a desired means, and is not very particular about exact ingredients. So feel free to experiment and have a good time. Most shops in Japan have their own spin on chanko nabe preparation, so there is no need to follow the recipe exactly.
If you are interested in learning more about Japan’s culinary culture…
I recommend you check out the article I wrote about the history of ramen in Japan, as well as the characteristics people in Japan consider in good ramen that most people abroad don’t think about.